The thing about diversity is that even if we acknowledge it, sometimes people can struggle to stand it… it is a fact that the different always leaves us wary. However, we must accept that the first step to let diversity be is recognizing the existence of the other. Let’s take this into a more philosophical approach.
Linking diversity to Emmanuel Levinas’ fundamentals, it is not hard to understand why the other is so important in order for us to be ourselves and, moreover, why understanding that the other exists and is there, is a way of helping to promote the respect of the diverse.
Alterity, a concept further developed by Levinas, can be defined as “the ability to distinguish between self and not-self, and consequently to assume the existence of an alternative viewpoint.”. It would be nonsensical and pretty much innocent to say alterity can’t be associated with diversity. Without diversity, humans would need no alterity, whereas without alterity, diversity becomes shallow, unfortunately unexplored and, mainly, pointless.
Emmanuel refers to the face as the way to the human sense, going beyond appearance and landing on how the other presents themself to me, defending that what truly is the face is that which cannot be reduced to its content. The relation with the face, which expresses a plea to the responsibility towards the other, is then based on perception and knowledge.
In its pure essence and original form, the face expresses the message “I’m here and you shall not kill me” (“Thou shalt not kill”). It gives orders and asks for clemency. And it is also a possibility for the alterity ethics to happen; the face invites to an intercourse with it, without interests and offering knowledge. However, the relation with the face is not of knowledge, but of desire, given that, in the face, it is expressed the idea of infinity.
Now, diversity makes it all more exciting: everyday we are surrounded by many chances to enter the idea of infinity, to know more and to understand society. And when it comes to that, we have a lot of responsibility. It is up to us to be willing to dive into the adventure that is alterity, especially because the “I” always has more responsibilities than the other. Responsibilities which should not require reciprocity.
We should recognize the other, respect and care for them, with no interest of getting that back. Why? Because it is our duty. Because it is part of what alterity feels like. Because it is the sine qua non of a harmoniously diverse society.
Diversity is everywhere we go. We find it in words, costumes, habits, places, expressions, languages and also, and probably most importantly: faces. Day by day we are surrounded by faces that tell us way more than what we can observe by a simple glance, we are filled with opportunities to enter people’s individuals infinities and even more than that, we are gifted with the choice of having alterity or not. The problem is: if we choose not to have it, we are denying all the chances we were given to understand the other, and with that, we neglect diversity. However, if we choose to, indeed, have it, we are one step closer to exploring diversity at its best and accepting not only our responsibilities towards the other, but also the fact that there is more than one way to see life, that there’s is more than one way to do things and to think, and we shall respect that. Once we see alterity as a must to reach a better society, and the face as a good starting point for that, we perceive diversity as something intrinsic to the humankind, something that deserves understanding and patience and something that is, above all, beautiful.
This is a pure interpretation of what I’ve read about Levinas and shall not be used as a concrete source about his ideals